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University of Tubingen and Durham University staff together in Tubingen, Germany

In partnership with the University of Tübingen in Germany, we have renewed our partnership agreement for a further five years and launched a new round of funding to promote joint research collaborations to address global challenges.

Our Vice-Chancellor and Warden, Professor Karen O’Brien, signed a new Memorandum of Understanding and announced the new round of joint investment during a trip to Tübingen. She was joined by our Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Global), Professor Claire O’Malley and our Executive Dean for Arts and Humanities, Professor Janet Stewart. 

A long and proud history of collaboration 

Formalised by a Memorandum of Understanding signed in April 2017, our relationship with the University of Tübingen is one of Durham University’s flagship strategic partnerships in Europe. It dates back to 1989 and builds on a successful track record of student exchanges, a precedent for research collaboration and membership of the Matariki Network of Universities.   

There is a long history of collaboration between Durham and Tübingen. Durham City Council has been twinned with the city of Tübingen since 1969. As a teenager, our Chancellor, Dr Fiona Hill, took part in a DCC student exchange with a family in Tübingen. 

Durham and Tübingen have student exchange agreements in Chemistry, Classics and Ancient History, Earth Sciences, German, Philosophy and Theology. 

A partnership for mutual benefit  

When the strategic partnership was established, it was agreed that the senior leadership teams of both institutions would take part in delegation visits on a regular basis to allow senior colleagues to develop a close working relationship with their counterparts. They could learn more about the partner institution, their values, and ways of working. The visits would also provide the opportunity to explore issues pertinent to the senior leadership at both universities.  Durham and Tübingen colleagues would also share updates on key institutional developments and priorities, including sustainability, cultural heritage and equality, diversity and inclusion. 

Delivering impact through research collaborations 

A key part of the institutional relationship between Durham and the University of Tübingen has been a mutual commitment to supporting joint research projects. These have been selected and funded through a joint Strategic Development Fund.  

Since 2018, both institutions have invested €150,000 per partner in support of collaborative projects, supporting 15 joint schemes. As a result of this initial investment, known as seedcorn funding, we have secured a £970k grant from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council on the topic of plant immunity and a £250k European Commission Archaeology Grant focusing on Climate, Landscape, Settlement and Society.  

An additional collaboration between Durham and Tübingen archaeologists resulted in a successful joint seedcorn project “Death and Demographics: Comparing Settlement and Burial Records in the Ancient Near East”. This collaboration secured a £1m European Research Council grant to fund Durham’s work with Tübingen, amongst other research institutions, on the use of remote sensing and GIS techniques in archaeological analysis. 

Working together to address global challenges 

The fourth call of the fund was launched on 22 January 2024 with a deadline of 17 May 2024. The priority themes for this call will be:  

  • Climate change and clean energy;  
  • Health and life sciences;  
  • Heritage and culture;  
  • Biosciences and the environment; and  
  • Emerging technologies (quantum sciences and technologies, digital, data sciences and AI) 

This additional investment will not only benefit Durham and Tübingen, but also the wider society and economy in the UK and Germany. Both institutions look forward to enhancing further this partnership through the seedcorn fund. 

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